Although aspirin has often been associated with gastric mucosal damage, the use of aspirin may actually reduce the risk of gastric cancer, according to the results of a study published in the British Journal of Cancer.
Gastric cancer (stomach cancer) is characterized by the presence of cancer cells in the tissues of the stomach, which is located in the upper abdomen. Stomach cancer is currently the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide.
One important goal of cancer research is to identify environmental risk factors for different types of cancer. Some factors such as diet, exercise, pollution and stress have been associated with a higher incidence of some types of cancer. Conversely, other factors have been associated with a lower incidence of some types of cancer with high exposure to one or more of them. Researchers continue to evaluate environmental factors that can either increase or reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer so that better strategies for prevention and/or screening can be produced and implemented.
Aspirin is a type of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Researchers have long speculated that NSAIDs might reduce the risk for gastric and other types of cancer. In order to investigate this theory, researchers in Sweden conducted a population-based case-control study in 5 Swedish countries. The researchers interviewed 567 individuals with gastric cancer and 1165 control subjects. Among the interview questions were questions regarding the use of pain relievers. The researchers found that aspirin users had a moderately reduced risk of gastric cancer when compared with never users. The risk of gastric cancer was reduced as the frequency of aspirin use increased. While the results indicated a relationship between aspirin and gastric cancer risk, they did not establish a clear association between gastric cancer risk and non-aspirin NSAIDs or other pain relievers.
The researchers concluded that aspirin may play a role in reducing the risk of gastric cancer. More research is needed to further define the relationship between aspirin and gastric cancer. In the meantime, individuals at a high risk for gastric cancer may wish to speak with their physician about the risks and benefits of using aspirin. As researchers continue to identify not only environmental risk factors that contribute to certain types of cancer, but also factors that may reduce the risk for some cancers, they increase the chances of preventing these cancers from developing and provide individuals with opportunities to prevent cancer through changes in lifestyle. ( British Journal of Cancer, Vol 84, No. 7, pp. 965-968, 2001)